Luis Rodriguez Chooses Awesome, Terrible Time To Beat Yankees

The dumpsters for our apartment complex are out in the parking lot, about 40 feet from our back door. Maybe 50, max. If I'm hustling, I can make it to them in no time at all. If I'm hustling, the part that takes the longest is unlocking the door. (The lock on that door is difficult. It's really stupid.) Many a time this season, I have carried out a load of trash in between individual pitches. With Erik Bedard, I could do it in the time it took him to stare in at the catcher and do nothing.

So at the time, I didn't really think anything of taking out the trash in the bottom of the 12th. Even though it was extra innings and the game could end with one swing of the bat, I probably wouldn't miss any action, and at most, I might miss one pitch. What's one pitch? Especially one pitch to Luis Rodriguez to lead off the inning? I like Luis Rodriguez's approach and all, but it's not to the point where I think of him as a regular dinger threat.

So out the door I went as Rodriguez stepped in against Cory Wade. When I got to the dumpsters, though, there was a problem: included in the trash was a cardboard box that needed to be broken down before it could be thrown out. And the cardboard box had tape on one side of it. This would cause a delay.

I still wasn't worried, but I'd be lying if I said the idea of Rodriguez going deep didn't briefly enter my mind. I ignored it, though, and dug my fingers into the box, trying to pull it apart. After a short struggle, I succeeded in breaking the tape and flattening the box. That's when Ms. Jeff poked her head out the door and told me "uh, they just won."

Because of course that's when they won. The one minute, literally the one minute that I wasn't watching was the one minute when everything happened, by which I mean the one thing happened. I got back inside for the celebration and the video replay was uploaded to MLB.com within minutes, but it just wasn't the same. It isn't the same when you don't see it live. A baseball team only provides so many of these moments in a season, and I missed a good one because I insisted upon having a cleaner kitchen an hour and a half before midnight.

But that's the self-centered perspective. From my perspective, Luis Rodriguez chose an annoying time to beat the Yankees. But from everybody else's perspective, Luis Rodriguez chose a perfect time to beat the Yankees.

Consider that the Mariners came in on a losing streak. Consider that the Yankees came in on a winning streak. Consider that it was the bottom of the 12th, when one swing could make all the difference. Consider that Mariano Rivera was prevented from reaching another milestone on Seattle's field. Consider that the homer gave Steve Delabar his first Major League victory in his second Major League game. And consider that Rodriguez went deep with his mother in attendance, watching her son play in person for the first time in five years.

So much about the way this game went was amazing, and I feel woefully inadequate trying to find the right words at...12:37 in the morning? I have radio in less than eight hours! This is going to be terrible! God dammit, extra innings! God bless you, Luis Rodriguez! I don't even care that I missed it anymore. Thank you for ending the game!

I guess this kind of makes Luis Rodriguez the 2011 version of 2009 Ryan Langerhans. Two veteran bench guys who came through and delivered a pair of memorable walk-offs apiece. Granted, Rodriguez's weren't so close together, but it'll be hard for anyone to reflect on his year and have anything but a positive memory.

Bullet holes. It is so late. Here are bullet holes.

  • Way back before all that nothing happened, and then that one thing happened, Jason Vargas started this game for the Mariners, and he was really good. Last week he had a strong start against the Royals, and we were encouraged by a mechanical adjustment he made that seemed to improve his velocity and deception. What we then wanted to see was whether the improvements would carry over. Improvements are only interesting improvements if they're sustained.

    They carried over. Tonight, Jason Vargas was effective, against the Yankees. It's a shame that his 101st and final pitch was the pitch that cost him a victory, but he threw 71% strikes. He got groundballs. He missed ten bats. He racked up a walk and six strikeouts. And:

    Pitch Season Tonight
    Fastball 87.1 88.6
    Cutter 84.1 85.5
    Change 80.1 81.0
    Curve 73.8 74.8
    We saw the same velocity boosts that we did the last time. We still only have a sample of two starts post-tweak, but two starts is twice as big a sample as one start, and I'm only more encouraged now than I already was. As skeptical as I usually am that little mechanical adjustments can lead to big improvements in performance, Jason Vargas hasn't given us anything else to think. He made a change, and in two starts against strong lineups, he's been really good.

    Again, we'll see. We'll keep watching, and we'll keep checking the numbers. But this is exciting, right? Not long ago, people were seriously entertaining the idea that Vargas should be non-tendered. Now he's back to looking like a value.

  • In the top of the first inning, Derek Jeter struck out on a foul tip into Miguel Olivo's glove, and Ken Wilson remarked that Jeter playfully popped Olivo in the chest protector. Another way of saying this is that Derek Jeter struck out and punched the Mariners' catcher in the sternum. One must always be careful with words.

  • I need to start flying through these now so I can go to bed. More bullets, fewer words. Here are a thousand words on Kyle Seager attempting to steal second base in the bottom of the fourth:

    Seagersb_medium
    The ball, in case you haven't figured it out, is already in Jeter's glove.

  • While we're sharing pictures, spot what doesn't belong!

    Marinerskyle_medium
    I suppose it's possible that Kyle the bat boy gave Luis Rodriguez his bat. That's practically an assist. They should put him in the box score.

  • Justin Smoak had to leave the game early with a mild groin strain. It shouldn't jeopardize the rest of his season, but then at this point in the year you can never be sure, and more importantly, Smoak's recent injury luck must be driving him bonkers. All he wants is to be able to remain in the lineup. And, of course, that's all I want at this point as well. He's looked good since coming off the DL and I would like for that to continue through the final two weeks.

    Smoak had one at bat before he had to come out. Jesus Montero played the whole game. Smoak finished with more hits. WHERE'S YOUR DIALOGUE NOW MOTHERFUCKERS

  • Ivan Nova intentionally walked Ichiro in the bottom of the eighth. It was obvious that he was going to, both because of the situation, and because Russell Martin was standing up behind the right-handed batter's box. The crowd didn't start booing until after Nova threw his first pitch.

  • Luis Rodriguez didn't only pound the game-winning homer - earlier on, he also clubbed a pair of identical doubles to right-center field. His batting line through 115 trips to the plate now reads .198/.301/.354. That's not much, but he's also running a .210 BABIP. Regress that north a little and all of a sudden, whoa, really interesting player. A switch-hitting versatile infielder with patience and pull power?

    I hope that Rodriguez sticks in the organization, and at this point I'd like to see him begin on next year's bench. Obviously things could change, but he does a lot of things well, and few things poorly. He's useful.

  • Brandon League came in to pitch the ninth, and the first pitch he threw was a fastball that Curtis Granderson very nearly hit out to right-center. The next pitch he threw was a first-pitch slider to Mark Teixeira. He can learn! He is in some way capable of learning!

  • If you watched this series, you noticed Brett Gardner in the outfield. He made a few more tremendous plays tonight, with the highlight in my mind being this sliding catch to take an important hit away from Miguel Olivo in the ninth. Brett Gardner seems to cover more ground than the grass that he runs on.

  • Another day, another strong outing by Tom Wilhelmsen, who worked two perfect innings with 16/21 strikes and a whiff. That makes 17 strikeouts and one walk in his last 14.1 frames, with five hits. There's a comparison that can be made to a stretch Sean White had in 2009 when he walked one guy in his last 26.1 innings, but that Sean White didn't have anything on what Tom Wilhelmsen has had of late. He's been in control, and he's been unhittable.

    So, what now? Has Wilhelmsen made himself an invaluable member of the bullpen? Do the Mariners give him a shot to start next March? What an astonishing surprise he has been since being recalled.

  • Steve Delabar's second inning wasn't as impressive as his first, but it was scoreless, and it was scoreless despite beginning with a fastball that caught Robinson Cano in the foot. Minutes after Delabar walked off the mound, he had a win. His first-ever Major League win, against the New York Yankees. I don't like much about the win statistic, but I like that it makes things like this possible. Now Steve Delabar gets to say that, five and a half months after being a substitute teacher, he came out of the bullpen and beat the New York Yankees.

Off day tomorrow. Hot diggity damn!

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